For the love of God

Yes, most of us heard or read Bishop Curry’s sermon at the Royal Wedding.
And if we ask the real message he wanted to give, it can be summed up in just a few words.

We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way.”

There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalise it. There’s power, power in love.

If you don’t believe me, think about a time when you first fell in love. The whole world seemed to centre around you and your beloved.

Oh there’s power, power in love. Not just in its romantic forms but any form, any shape of love. There’s a certain sense in which when you are loved, and you know it, when someone cares for you, and you know it, when you love and you show it, it actually feels right. There is something right about it.

And there’s a reason for it. The reason has to do with the source. We were made by a power of love and our lives were meant — and are meant — to be lived in that love. That’s why we are here.

Ultimately, the source of love is God himself: The source of all of our lives. There’s an old medieval poem that says: “Where true love is found, God himself is there.

The New Testament says it this way: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God and those who love are born of God and know God. Those who do not love do not know God. Why? For God is love.”

There’s power in love. There’s power in love to help and heal when nothing else can. There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will. There’s power in love to show us the way to live.

Set me as a seal on your heart? a seal on your arm? for love is as strong as death.

There is a deep truth behind his words, although many may have missed the depth. But not, I hope, the visitors and the contributors to this site. We know a great deal about religion, don’t we? The dogmas, the Scriptures, the moral teaching, the traditions of the Church, the sacraments, the effects of original sin, the need for grace and so on. And we know that this is all beside the real point.

The real point is that all love comes from God, and that is the essence of his nature. Whenever and wherever (and whoever) we love it is God’s love we are incarnating. That is what redemption is about, and it was earned by the wounds in the hands and the feet and the side. There is no such thing as love in the absence of God. And no absence of God where there is love. Theology has no meaning other than to help us, very crudely, to understand. And, if we are not careful, it may well distract us from the real truth.

Atheists, agnostics, religionists, Christians, Catholics will all be asked just one question on the Last Day “Did you love me?” And if someone shouts out “I never met you – I never believed you existed” the answer will be “You met me every day in your neighbour. You simply didn’t know my name”.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Quentin queries, virtue ethics and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to For the love of God

  1. John Thomas says:

    “There is no such thing as love in the absence of God. And no absence of God where there is love.” – So when people say ‘I want love, I don’t want God’ your answer, Quentin, is that in wanting love they wanted God (but didn’t know it). But what about the strident anti-theists who do not say “I never believed you existed” [as here] but “I never wanted/want you to exist, I just want/have love” – yes, there are such people. ‘Love is ALL you need’ – they say. Mmmm … I wonder … This smacks of the ‘Oh, they believe in God REALLY (despite what they say)’ position, which religious people sometimes (sentimentally, I think) adopt.

    • G.D says:

      Sorry John, but love is all you need. Not the many selfish loves, we all have, a love that only ‘gives’ if the other is complicit to the way ‘I just want/have love’ made in our own image.
      But a love that sincerely really does seek, desire and try to bestow the best for the other; with no expectation of recompense of any kind. That love is all you need.
      That’s the only love can, and sometimes does, create love’s selfless response in the other.
      That love is the ‘Word made flesh’ & God’s Spirit amongst us. Named as such or not.

      • John Thomas says:

        Yes, as Geordie says (below) we need to define “love”. Indeed, the problem with”Love is all you need” is that it DOES lack definition, and, being woolly, can mean anything/nothing. But for those (to which I referred) who want love but not God, then “Love is all you need” lets them off the hook (no need to commit to anything, no cost – and no criticism/opposition- who is against “love”?).

  2. Geordie says:

    I think we need to clarify what we mean by the word “love”. The Greeks had three words for “love”; we seem to have only one.

  3. Nektarios says:

    Bishop Michael Curry’s rousing royal wedding sermon – the full text
    Here is the complete transcript for the Most Rev Michael Curry’s sermon at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
    • Most Rev Michael Curry delivers his sermon
    The Most Rev Michael Curry
    Sat 19 May 2018 16.35 BST Last modified on Mon 21 May 2018 12.01 BST
    US minister Michael Curry captures world’s attention with powerful royal wedding sermon – video
    And now in the name of our loving, liberating and life-giving God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
    From the Song of Solomon, in the Bible:
    Set me as a seal upon your heart,
    as a seal upon your arm;
    for love is strong as death,
    passion fierce as the grave.
    Its flashes are flashes of fire,
    a raging flame.
    Many waters cannot quench love,
    neither can floods drown it.
    The late Dr Martin Luther King Jr once said, and I quote: “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way.”
    There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even oversentimentalise it. There’s power – power in love. If you don’t believe me, think about a time when you first fell in love. The whole world seemed to centre around you and your beloved.
    Oh, there’s power, power in love. Not just in its romantic forms, but any form, any shape of love. There’s a certain sense in which, when you are loved, and you know it, when someone cares for you, and you know it, when you love and you show it – it actually feels right. There’s something right about it.

    There is something right about it. And there’s a reason for it. The reason has to do with the source. We were made by a power of love, and our lives were meant – and are meant – to be lived in that love. That’s why we are here.
    Ultimately, the source of love is God himself: the source of all of our lives. There’s an old medieval poem that says: “Where true love is found, God himself is there.” The New Testament says it this way: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God, and those who love are born of God and know God. Those who do not love do not know God.” Why? “For God is love.” There’s power in love. There’s power in love to help and heal when nothing else can.
    There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will. There’s power in love to show us the way to live. Set me as a seal on your heart … a seal on your arm, for love is as strong as death. But love is not only about a young couple. Now the power of love is demonstrated by the fact that we’re all here. Two young people fell in love, and we all showed up. But it’s not just for and about a young couple, who we rejoice with. It’s more than that.
    Jesus of Nazareth on one occasion was asked by a lawyer to sum up the essence of the teachings of Moses, and he went back and he reached back into the Hebrew scriptures, to Deuteronomy and Leviticus, and Jesus said: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself.”
    And then in Matthew’s version, he added, he said: “On these two, love of God and love of neighbour, hang all the law, all the prophets, everything that Moses wrote, everything in the holy prophets, everything in the scriptures, everything that God has been trying to tell the world … Love God, love your neighbours, and while you’re at it, love yourself.”
    Someone once said that Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in human history: a movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world – and a movement mandating people to live that love, and in so doing to change not only their lives, but the very life of the world itself. I’m talking about power. Real power. Power to change the world.
    If you don’t believe me, well, there were some old slaves in America’s Antebellum South who explained the dynamic power of love and why it has the power to transform. They explained it this way. They sang a spiritual, even in the midst of their captivity. It’s one that says, “There’s a balm in Gilead …” a healing balm, something that can make things right.
    “There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole,” and one of the stanzas actually explains why. They said:
    “If you cannot preach like Peter,
    And you cannot pray like Paul,
    You just tell the love of Jesus,
    How he died to save us all.”Oh, that’s the balm in Gilead!
    This way of love, it is the way of life. They got it. He died to save us all. He didn’t die for anything he could get out of it. Jesus did not get an honorary doctorate for dying. He didn’t – he wasn’t getting anything out of it. He gave up his life, he sacrificed his life, for the good of others, for the good of the other, for the wellbeing of the world … for us. That’s what love is. Love is not selfish and self-centred. Love can be sacrificial, and in so doing, becomes redemptive. And that way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives, and it can change this world.
    If you don’t believe me, just stop and imagine. Think and imagine a world where love is the way.
    Imagine our homes and families where love is the way.
    Imagine our neighbourhoods and communities where love is the way.
    Imagine our governments and nations where love is the way.
    Imagine business and commerce where this love is the way.
    Imagine this tired old world where love is the way.
    When love is the way – unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive.
    When love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again.
    When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever flowing brook.
    When love is the way, poverty will become history.
    When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary.
    When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside, to study war no more.
    When love is the way, there’s plenty good room – plenty good room – for all of God’s children. Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well … like we are actually family.
    When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all, and we are brothers and sisters, children of God.
    My brothers and sisters, that’s a new heaven, a new earth, a new world, a new human family. And let me tell you something, old Solomon was right in the Old Testament: that’s fire.
    Pierre Teilhard de Chardin – and with this I will sit down, we gotta get y’all married – French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was arguably one of the great minds, great spirits of the 20th century. Jesuit, Roman Catholic priest, a scientist, a scholar, a mystic.
    In some of his writings, he said, from his scientific background as well as his theological one … in some of his writings he said – as others have – that the discovery, or invention, or harnessing of fire was one of the great scientific and technological discoveries in all of human history.
    Fire to a great extent made human civilisation possible. Fire made it possible to cook food and to provide sanitary ways of eating, which reduced the spread of disease in its time. Fire made it possible to heat warm environments and thereby made human migration around the world a possibility, even into colder climates.
    Fire made it possible … There was no Bronze Age without fire, no Iron Age without fire, no Industrial Revolution without fire. The advances of fire and technology are greatly dependent on the human ability and capacity to take fire and use it for human good.
    Anybody get here in a car today? An automobile? Nod your heads if you did – I know there were some carriages. But those of us who came in cars, fire – controlled, harnessed fire – made that possible.
    I know that the Bible says – and I believe it – that Jesus walked on the water. But I have to tell you, I did not walk across the Atlantic Ocean to get here. Controlled fire in that plane makes it possible.
    Fire makes it possible for us to text and tweet and email and Instagram and Facebook and socially be dysfunctional with each other. Fire makes all of that possible, and De Chardin said fire was one of the greatest discoveries in all of human history. And he then went on to say that if humanity ever harnesses the energy of fire again, if humanity ever captures the energy of love – it will be the second time in history that we have discovered fire.
    Dr King was right: we must discover love – the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world, a new world.
    My brother, my sister, God love you, God bless you, and may God hold us all in those almighty hands of love.

    • John Nolan says:

      Sorry, Nektarios, we don’t need a transcription. We heard it the first time round, in all its cringe-making awfulness. The expression on the Queen’s face said it all, and many in the congregation found it hard to suppress their giggles.

      The military side of the wedding was impeccable, but the service itself was far from it. Was it really necessary to emphasize the racial element? Are we supposed to believe that the tawdry procession of ‘celebrities’ who trooped into the chapel were all friends of Harry and Meghan? Why was there no New Testament reading?

      Also, when you are given a six-minute slot, to extend it to 14 minutes of vacuous platitudes is rank bad manners.

      • Nektarios says:

        Perhaps everyone did not see or hear Bishop Curry’s sermon, though it was hard to avoid it.
        My view of the sermon is typical of what passes as preaching today. I agree with you hearing his sermon in all its cringe-making awfulness.

        But before you attack him for his obvious American way of doing things, afterall Meghan is an American.
        Also before criticism, lets make sure we are attending to all that we should in Apostolic Doctrine, Teaching and Practice.

  4. John Nolan says:

    G.D.

    ‘Love is all you need’. The words of that great 20th century philosopher John Lennon, who also penned: ‘Imagine there’s no country, it isn’t hard to do, nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too (sic)’.

    Does no-one here have the critical faculty to distinguish style from substance, and to recognize nonsense when they encounter it?

    • Vincent says:

      John, I think you have simply missed the point — a rarity for you. Love is the motive to do good towards our neighbours and ourselves. And that was how Christ simply described it. The way in which our love (agape) is expressed is of course multiple, and one could certainly debate about what would be loving in this circumstance or that. Why mock Christ’s message?

  5. Geordie says:

    Thank you John, for putting into words exactly what I feel. I wish I could do so. John Lennon’s song has always irritated me. We have a lot of secular “saints” these days and he is the leader of the pack.
    I thought the bishop’s sermon was hilarious for all the wrong reasons. I am not a fan of Prince Charles but I warmed to him when I saw him trying to stifle his laughter.

    • John Nolan says:

      ‘Bishop’ Curry seemed in imminent danger of sending one or both of the pulpit candles flying, thus precipitating a general conflagration. That would have been even more hilarious, especially if it coincided with his incendiary analogies!

    • Alasdair says:

      Yes I agree – “Imagine” is the all-time most irritating song, and John Lennon is massively overrated as a positive influence on a generation and he is “hyped” as a secular saint as you say.

  6. G.D says:

    John, wasn’t thinking of Lennon at all. As i think the substance of my post explained. It was indeed ‘agape’.
    Although ‘nothing to live or die for’ (as in a poetical expression, not literaly) when all is said and done can, symbolically, be seen as being free to exist for God’s will (love) alone …

  7. galerimo says:

    It was just as striking as the words Earl Spencer delivered at the funeral of his sister Diana. Prophecy is an abundant gift but rare in the public arena these days and even more so in church.

    It is true when people say that words take their meaning from the company they keep. And John Currie’s words on power were in strange company in St George’s chapel at Harry’s wedding to Meghan.

    It was strange to see the Church of England and the people of England together after they parted company so long ago.

    To see an act of faith in God, religion in the public arena where it properly belongs, in the strange company of the rich and famous under the curious eye of millions and millions worldwide in 2018.

    Justin Welby as titular head of Anglican churches throughout the world, invited (by royal etc.etc.) and listened to Michael Curry with whose part of the Anglican tradition he is at odds over the ordination of gays and women and same sex marriage.

    The murderous and bloody institution of English Royalty built on exploitation and immeasurable persecution through its slave and other dehumanizing trades witnessing the arrival of the negro into its midst. Strange words in strange company.

    The powerful absence of the father was clear. The powerful brokenness of marriage was in your face before you could even get to the millions beyond the hats and gloves in the first pew.

    The division and destructive influence of power was clear in the words of Michael Curry as well as the company to whom those words were addressed.

    What a joy to see a beautiful English spring morning witnessing the joy of so many people celebrating the union of Meghan and Harry.

    It was a glorious occasion. A union between God and God’s people, between Jesus and his Bride the Church, a breath of God’s beautiful prophetic Spirit into the words and their company.

    Given the words and the company of that glorious celebration, hope struggles in the face of doom. God Save…. The Lot of Us.

  8. John Nolan says:

    ‘The murderous and bloody institution of English Royalty built on exploitation and immeasurable persecution … witnessing the arrival of the negro in its midst.’

    Overblown and woefully inaccurate rheotric aside, this sort of comment underlines the point I made earlier about the hijacking of the ceremony by racists. And yes, those who insist on making race an issue are ipso facto racist.

    It is ludicrous to describe Meghan Markle, who is of mixed race, ‘African-American’. It is an uncomfortable reminder of the sort of prejudice which existed in what Curry calls ‘the Antebellum South’, where even octoroons, who were white in a ratio of 7:1, were classed as negroes.

    The suppression of the slave trade was one of the great achievements of the Pax Britannica and was carried out by the Royal (note the word) Navy.

  9. ignatius says:

    Can any of you manage to describe what you think love actually is? Without resorting to cliches or turning to Greek I mean? In fact, try to describe it without recourse to religious language at all, I’ll be interested to see what you all say as this has been the topic in our Sunday afternoon prison group and I’m a bit stuck ! Can anybody rise to the challenge?

  10. ignatius says:

    PS my own attempt is the classic understanding: Love is that which always seeks the good of the other.

    • G.D says:

      Ignatius thought it might be be worth re-posting this ….
      G.D says:
      May 24, 2018 at 3:13 pm
      Sorry John, but love is all you need. Not the many selfish loves, we all have, a love that only ‘gives’ if the other is complicit to the way ‘I just want/have love’ made in our own image.
      But a love that sincerely really does seek, desire and try to bestow the best for the other; with no expectation of recompense of any kind. That love is all you need.
      That’s the only love can, and sometimes does, create love’s selfless response in the other.
      That love is the ‘Word made flesh’ & God’s Spirit amongst us. Named as such or not.

  11. ignatius says:

    Yes, but also to realise that our many imperfect attempts at loving are neither without value.

  12. ignatius says:

    Ha Ha..I quite like that…can see it being worked into a homily somewhere now!

    • G.D says:

      .. and every try hits somewhere … God often moves the target for us .. dead centre … it’s trying that counts … God honours our (good) desire, not our success .. any success is God’s … the throw and the catch belong to God .. the success and ‘glory’ belongs to ..
      Happy preachings.

  13. milliganp says:

    I presume the ‘old medieval poem’ which Bishop Curry misquotes is ‘ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est’. As an evangelical Anglican, perhaps he was loath to admit its Catholic liturgical origin.
    No language translates precisely to another and although it is usual to see the Latin Caritas as directly equivalent to Agape it is not identically equal. The Latin Amor is, I believe, closer in it’s ambiguity to the English love and does not directly equate to any of the Greek usages.
    The English word charity has some difficulty as we admit the phrase ‘cold as charity’ to describe acts done with little care or compassion.
    I believe the Latin conjunction et (and) in the original is important, neither charity or love are sufficient alone, they have to exist together. Whenever I talk about this phrase I translate it ‘where there is love and loving care, God is present’. This avoids the banality of Lenon’s ‘all you need is love’ and the coldness of institutional charity.
    However, even this narrowing of the oversimplification of love allows us to see the presence of God’s love in places we might judge otherwise. Gay couples, unmarried parents, Hindus and Muslims, even atheists, are all capable of ‘caritas et amor’. Karl Rahner talked of ‘the anonymous Christian’, perhaps the world is full of them.

  14. Anne Shimwell says:

    Are.Therese de Lisieux: C’est l’amour seul qui compte.
    Not quite the same as John Lennon, I think she was trying to go straight to the heart of what we believe in. God’s love for us is unconditional and the most important thing in life. Our love – for anyone or anything – is a reflection of that love.

  15. ignatius says:

    Tricky subject this:
    “God’s love for us is unconditional and the most important thing in life. Our love – for anyone or anything – is a reflection of that love.”
    “Whenever I talk about this phrase I translate it ‘where there is love and loving care, God is present’..”

    Here we are trying to instinctively elevate human love beyond that which is simply desire. Trying to come up with a humanised ‘Agape’ concept which will allow us to believe in the value of human love even though we know it not perfect. I applaud this intention and find it interesting that there is no simple phrase which comes to mind for:
    ‘a love which is fallible yet at least partially disinterested’
    In other words what we proffer as our best attempt

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